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Briefing paper

BP7: Freedom of speech, media exposure, and the defense of a free press in Africa

15 Apr 2015
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Africans value freedom of speech.  In Afrobarometer surveys in a dozen African countries, people say that democracy requires that citizens are able to criticize the performance of governments.  It seems reasonable to suppose that the liberty of individuals to express themselves evolves together with the emergence of a free press.   This connection raises important questions.  Does exposure to a plural mass media – or to other, informal modes of communication – promote popular democratic values?  What happens to such values when governments control the media of mass communications?  Are ordinary Africans – or the opinion leaders among them – willing to stand up to defend press freedom?   After documenting relevant facts about public opinion and media exposure, this briefing paper offers answers to these questions.